Four Sacks for Bulldog Defense
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale football team racked up 392 yards of total offense, got 26 first downs compared to 14 for Lafayette, and limited the Leopards to a 5-for-14 performance on third downs -- but the final score Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field read Lafayette 20, Yale 10. The Bulldogs' positive stats were negated by four turnovers, and shortly after a chance at the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter slipped through Yale's grasp the Leopards put the game away with a touchdown.
"This was a tough one," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We're close. We're making mistakes in crucial areas that are keeping us from putting points on the board, and we're making mistakes on defense that keep us from getting off the field."
In terms of points allowed, this was the best performance of the year by the Yale defense. The Bulldogs had allowed 21 or more points in each of their first four games. And after allowing an average of more than 446 yards per game, Yale held Lafayette to 315 on Saturday. Adding on four sacks -- one more than they had in the previous four games combined -- provides a further idea of the strides the defensive unit made.
That helped keep this game close throughout. After a failed fourth-down conversion from the Lafayette 25 on the Bulldogs' first drive, the teams traded punts. The Yale defense produced the first big play of the game on a Lafayette drive late in the first, as senior linebacker Will McHale forced a fumble and senior linebacker Ryan Falbo recovered at the Lafayette 24. But two plays later, Leopards defensive back Shane Black picked off a tipped pass at the Lafayette six-yard line to end the Eli threat.
Yale's next drive also ended with an interception, this one by Leopards defensive back Jared Roberts. As with the first turnover, though, the Yale defense responded with a three-and-out. That helped the Bulldogs start gaining a field position edge, which eventually turned into a six-play, 55-yard Yale touchdown drive that took just 79 seconds. It ended with freshman quarterback Eric Williams tossing one high to junior tight end Michael Leunen, who reached up at the goal line and grabbed it for his second career score. The extra point by senior placekicker Philippe Panico made it 7-0 Yale three plays into the second quarter.
Lafayette tied the game midway through the second on a four-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Shoop to fullback Greg Kessel. The Bulldogs answered behind the running of senior tailback Mordecai Cargill. He ran the ball four times for a total of 47 yards, including back-to-back 18 yard gains, to set up a 24-yard field goal by Panico that gave Yale a 10-7 lead heading into halftime.
Cargill (14 carries, 98 yards) and sophomore tailback Tyler Varga (23 carries, 100 yards) combined to form a tough tandem for the Lafayette defense to handle.
"Those two running backs are real difficult to tackle," said Leopards head coach Frank Tavani.
The Yale defense came up with a big play early in the third quarter, as Falbo and senior linebacker Dylan Drake combined for a 13-yard sack. But on the very next play Shoop hit receiver Rodney Gould to convert a third-and-22 and get the ball to the Yale 32. Seven plays later, Shoop found receiver Mark Ross in the end zone to give Lafayette its first lead of the day, 14-10 at 3:58 of the third.
Yale drove as far as the Lafayette 13 at the start of the fourth quarter, but that drive eventually ended with an interception by Black. The Eli defense once again came up with a big stop, culminating with senior nose guard Chris Dooley sacking Shoop on third-and-10 from the Yale 47.
Lafayette (4-2, 1-0 Patriot League) stuffed a fourth-and-one run by the Bulldogs from the Leopard 28 with 5:11 to play. But the Yale defense appeared to get the stop it needed when Dooley dropped Shoop for a six-yard loss, sacking him on third-and-six from the Yale 28. But Lafayette went for it on fourth-and-12, and got a 32-yard pass from Shoop to Ross that effectively ended the Bulldogs' hopes of a comeback. Ross Scheurman ran the ball in from two yards out with 2:19 to play to make the score 20-10. The extra point was blocked by senior nose guard Nick Daffin.
Yale (1-4, 0-2 Ivy League) hosts Penn next Saturday.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity